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Airline Miles Expiration: What They’re Not Telling You

Airline Miles Expiration: What They’re Not Telling You

Airline miles are valuable assets for travelers, helping to make flights more affordable or even free. However, a common question among frequent flyers is whether these miles expire. The truth is that airline miles do expire, but the expiration date and conditions vary depending on the airline and its loyalty program.

Understanding these expiration policies ensures you don’t lose your hard-earned miles. Airlines offer various ways to keep your miles active and extend your life, so staying informed about the policies of your preferred airline is essential. Additionally, leveraging partnerships, offers, and credit cards can help maintain and grow your mile balance, making air travel much more enjoyable.

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Understanding Airline Miles Expiration

The Basics of Mileage Expiration

Airline miles are subject to expiration policies as part of airline loyalty programs. Generally, your miles will expire if your account remains inactive for a certain period. By keeping your account in good standing through various activities, such as earning or redeeming miles, you can prevent the expiration of your miles.

Do Airline Miles Expire? They sure can. Find out how you can save and use those miles before they are gone.

Differences in Airline Policies

The mileage expiration policies differ among major airlines. Expiration dates usually range from one to three years after earning the miles. However, some airlines offer flexibility in extending the lifespan of your miles. Here is a brief overview of mileage expiration policies for some popular airlines:

  • American Airlines: Miles expire after 24 months of account inactivity.
  • Lufthansa: Miles expire after 36 months. However, if you hold a Lufthansa co-branded credit card for three or more months and make at least one purchase per month, your miles will not expire. Additionally, expiration is waived if you have Lufthansa elite status.
  • Malaysia Airlines: Miles expire 36 months from the last activity with no option to extend.
  • Qantas: Miles expire after 18 months of inactivity with no option to extend.

You can make the most of your rewards by understanding the differences in airline policies and taking advantage of opportunities to keep your miles. Remember, maintaining an active account and earning elite status may help you avoid losing your hard-earned miles.

Airline miles expire and will be gone forever if you’re not careful.

An image of a digital booking pass in a phone.

Keeping Your Miles Active

Earning and Redeeming Activities

To keep your airline miles from expiring, engaging in earning and redeeming activities is important. These actions contribute to your account activity, such as earning miles through travel or redeeming them for rewards. Airlines usually have a generous number of months of inactivity before your miles expire, so staying active in these activities isn’t hard as long as you’re organized.

A straightforward way to keep your account active is by earning miles through flights, promotions, or partner offers. Also, consider redeeming your miles for rewards like travel tickets, hotel bookings, or rental cars, as this counts as a qualifying activity.

Tips for Account Activity

A great tip for keeping an account active is to use your miles for everyday purchases, such as shopping or dining out. Transferring miles to partners, like hotels or airlines, may also help, as it often counts as a redemption activity.

Here are some popular methods you can use to keep your miles active:

  • Make a purchase with an airline-affiliated credit card.
  • Shop or dine with an airline’s partners.
  • Redeem miles for magazine subscriptions, merchandise, or gift cards.
  • Donate miles to charity.

By applying such tactics, you’ll maintain airline account activity and prevent the loss of your hard-earned miles.

Expiration Policies by Major U.S. Airlines

American Airlines AAdvantage

American Airlines AAdvantage miles expire after 24 months of no account activity. To keep your miles active, you can earn or redeem miles regularly. Remember, any transaction, such as booking flights, car rentals, or hotel stays, helps!

An image of a model plane with a full wallet and passport.

Delta SkyMiles

Great news for Delta Flyers! Delta SkyMiles don’t expire, so you don’t have to worry about keeping track of your account activity. Keep collecting those miles and use them at your convenience for future trips. However, check your frequent flyer account periodically for any changes to this program as policies do change over the years.

United MileagePlus

United MileagePlus miles also have an expiration policy. Your United Airlines miles will never expire. If you are an infrequent flyer than being a United MilagePlus member is a great way to accumulate miles over a longer time period.

Southwest Rapid Rewards

Southwest Rapid Rewards points are popular for their perks, and here’s another reason to love them, they don’t expire. Just keep your account open, and you’re good to go! Enjoy collecting points and using them whenever you please.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Lastly, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles do not expire, but your account can be closed if there’s no activity for 24 months. So, make sure you have some qualifying transactions within that time to keep your account and miles intact.

Airline Miles and Credit Cards

Benefits of Airline Credit Cards

There are many perks to having an airline credit card, such as earning bonus miles. When you use a co-branded credit card, like an American Airlines credit card or Delta American Express, the miles earned usually don’t expire as long as your account is open. These credit cards offer benefits like priority boarding and free checked bags.

Do airline miles expire for American Airlines after 24 months?

General Travel Rewards Cards

You can also get rewards with a general travel rewards card, such as American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards. Unlike airline-specific credit cards, these allow you to transfer your points to various airline and hotel partners. They also often come with additional perks like dining or transportation discounts.


  • More flexibility in redeeming points
  • Transfer points to multiple airlines and hotel programs
  • Earn bonus points for various categories


  • Annual fee is generally higher
  • Airline-specific benefits may be reduced or missing

To make the most of your credit card points, comparing airline credit cards and general travel rewards cards is essential. Consider each type’s benefits, annual fees, and flexibility to find the best fit for your travel needs.

Do airline miles expire after using your cards for shopping?

Leveraging Partnerships and Offers

Hotel Points and Travel Partners

You can maximize your airline rewards by using hotel loyalty programs and travel partners. For example, Singapore Airlines and Air France offer partnerships with various hotel chains, letting you earn miles for hotel stays when using their hotel credit card. Booking car rentals and participating in other linked activities could boost your miles.

Ensure your reward program accounts are linked to make the most of these partnerships. Remember, earning miles is not limited to flights, even something as simple as a magazine subscription can help you rack up miles quickly.

Special Promotions and Buying Miles

Monitor ongoing promotions and limited-time offers. Airlines and their partners might give you bonus miles when you sign up for certain rewards programs or achieve specific purchase milestones. Watch their online shopping portals for exclusive deals and promotions tied to your reward programs.

Here are some ways to earn miles through special promotions:

Bonus miles: Some airlines run promotions for a limited time, offering extra miles for activities like flying or making hotel reservations.

Purchased miles: If you’re close to your dream vacation but still short on miles, you can often purchase from the airlines’ websites (while not always cost-effective, they can help you reach your goal quicker).

Credit cards: Many airline reward programs partner with card issuers, offering sign-up bonuses and extra rewards on everyday spending.

With these strategies, you can earn miles faster and prevent them from expiring. Stay updated on your airline’s mileage expiration policies to avoid missing out on redeeming miles for desired flights or upgrades.

Do airline miles expire if you book a reservation for a hotel?

Strategies to Extend Mileage Life

Simple Ways to Prevent Expiry

Airline miles can expire, you need a strategy to extend your life. Here are some easy ways to keep your miles active. First, choose airline programs with no-expiration rules. This is the easiest way to ensure your miles don’t disappear.

Airlines With Miles That Never Expire:

  • Alaska Mileage Plan Miles
  • Delta Skymiles
  • Hawaiian Airlines Miles
  • JetBlue True Blue Miles
  • Southwest Rapid Reward Miles
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles

Secondly, make a spreadsheet of all your airline miles logins. Take note of how many miles you have in each account and also the best ways for you to increase that account balance. For example, Amex membership rewards grows at four points per dollar spent at worldwide restaurants. That card has the ability to transfer points into a dozen different airlines. That one financial institution can ensure your miles don’t expire for any of those twelve transfer partners.

Thirdly, you should be spending your miles regularly. There is a tendency to stockpile miles because they are a form of currency. However, they are a currency that is constantly de-valued. So, if there are miles accounts with enough to purchase a plane ticket, you should plan a trip and use them before that number of miles no longer is enough for a trip.

Understanding Expiry Workarounds

Knowing how to work around the expiration rules lets you make the most of your loyalty account. Focus on activities that extend the life of your miles. For instance, booking hotels and renting cars might help keep your account active.

Look into the terms and conditions of your airline program. With a good chance, you’ll discover some flexible policies – some airlines allow points to be transferred to a partner program to maintain validity.

Staying on top of your rewards accounts will help you maintain and maximize the benefits of your airline miles. You’ll kick yourself if you let those free airline miles expire without spending them.

Can you regain your airline miles if they expire?

Advanced Tactics for Frequent Flyers

Achieving and Maintaining Elite Status

To make the most of your frequent flyer programs, aim to achieve and maintain elite status. This comes with perks like priority boarding, lounge access, and free checked bags. Start by focusing on one or two airlines, and book your flights with them to accumulate enough miles and qualifying flights. Remember, the more you fly, the higher your elite status will be.

Additionally, pay attention to airline promotions where you can earn bonus miles, which can help you reach elite status faster. For example, some airlines offer double miles during specific periods or for certain destinations to elite members. Make sure to sign up for these promotions and book your flights accordingly. Also be sure you are taking a qualifying flight while on an online shopping portal or vendor. 

Creative Mileage Uses

Once you’ve accumulated enough miles, think beyond just using them for free flights. Award tickets can be used for more than just economy class. Consider redeeming your miles for business class or first class tickets, which offer a more luxurious travel experience. Remember that booking early and being flexible with travel dates can increase your chances of finding available higher-class award seats.

It’s always best to spend airline miles before they expire as opposed to trying to accumulate some arbitrary high number that will be devalued before you enjoy them.

Some frequent flyer programs also allow you to use miles for other travel-related services, such as:

Hotel stays: Book hotel rooms using your miles for a more seamless travel experience.

Car rentals: Save cash by redeeming miles for car rental services during your trip.

Experiences: Use your miles to enjoy unique experiences, like VIP tours or exclusive events.

You can make your trips more enjoyable and rewarding by getting creative with your mileage usage. Experiment with different options to find the best way to maximize your frequent flyer benefits, like a free flight in a luxury first class seat.

An image of a passport and a boarding pass.

Dealing with Expired Miles

Regaining Lost Miles

So, you’ve discovered some of your hard-earned air miles have expired. Don’t panic. Different policies allow you to regain lost miles in certain circumstances. While costly at times, this method can help you make the most of your rewards.

Some financial institutions offer products that help recover expired miles. Considering the best value, weigh these options against your travel goals.

Prevention vs. Reinstatement

Preventing mile expiration is undoubtedly better than reinstating them. Keep your miles active by engaging in qualifying activities, which are outlined in a specific airline policy. For instance, the only exception to Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles expiration policy applies to account holders under 21.

To make your miles go further, consider these strategies:

  • Keep an eye on expiration dates: Stay informed of each program’s policies.
  • Earn or redeem miles regularly: Most airlines extend mileage life with account activity.
  • Use airline-specific credit cards: They often award miles and prevent expiration.

Knowing the different airlines’ expiration policies and using preventive measures will be your best bet to avoid the headache of expired miles.

Misconceptions About When Airline Miles Expire

Common Myths Debunked

It’s easy to get confused about the ins and outs of airline mileage expiry policies. Let’s clear up some common misconceptions.

Myth 1: All Frequent Flyer Airline Miles Expire

The truth is, mileage expiration policies vary across airline programs. For example, United miles don’t expire, while American Airlines miles do. While this is good news for United members since they do not have to worry about months of no activity, Air Canada Aeroplan members must be wary of their miles expiration. 

Myth 2: All Miles Expire at the Same Rate

Expiry periods are different for each program. Air Canada miles expire after 18 months of inactivity, while British Airways Executive Club Avios last for 36 months.

Here’s a quick comparison table to help you understand the variations:

AirlineExpiration Policy
American Airlines AAdvantageExpires after 24 months of inactivity
United MileagePlusMiles don’t expire
Hawaiian MilesMiles don’t expire
Air Canada Aeroplan PointsExpires after 18 months of inactivity
British Airways Executive ClubAvios Expires after 36 months of inactivity

Myth 3: Activity in One program Will Keep all Your Airline Miles Active

Unfortunately, you need to maintain activity within each individual airline’s program to prevent your miles from expiring. So, if you’re a miler member with multiple rewards programs, you must keep track of each. 

Remember, each airline program has its own rules and policies. It’s essential to stay informed about the terms and conditions of the rewards programs you participate in to make the most of your miles and avoid expiration.

FAQ: Do Airline Miles Expire?


  • Veronica Hanson

    Veronica Hanson blogs from whatever country she happens to be in at the time, currently she's hanging out in Japan. She's been living as a nomad remote entrepreneur with her family since 2020.

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